“You are nothing but a fleck of matter, why are you letting this upset you?” I heard these words when I was upset and seeking a shoulder to cry on from a college friend. His full response was to remind me how, in this vast existence of material things, there were many universes, with one containing a galaxy that had many planets with one being Earth upon which I happened to live. On this planet, I was one mere person among billions of inhabitants and, if viewing the world from one of these far away universes or even simply from our moon, I would be a teeny-tiny fleck not even visible. He said, “This is reality, so why do you let things like this upset you and bother you? I think you need to get over it and just live for the moment as this is all that matters.”
At the time, I was speechless. I knew he was not a grief counselor but how did he think this was any form of consolation? I responded to these remarks with silence and eventually changed the subject feeling even more miserable. Not surprisingly, this was the first and last time I sought out this friend when I was upset and we soon grew apart. This conversation took place many years ago, but it had not crossed my mind in years until this Easter. I was meditating in the chapel of repose on Holy Thursday and thinking of Christ on the cross when my mind was flooded with this memory. As a result, I immediately experienced several emotions.
My First Emotion Was Sadness.
I recalled how befuddled I was at the time this encounter happened because I had never known anyone to express this mindset to me before this moment. I can now recognize the underlying worldviews influencing my friend and unfortunately still typical today among many. He was immersed in materialism, scientism, and relativism. His loss of the transcendent is evident, and he demonstrates why this inevitably leads to the loss of hope and the rise of despair.
It seems suffering had no value or meaning to him and making me feel worthless hints at a disregard for the sacred dignity of every human person. He also expressed the common illusion that life is fulfilled in the here and now, only in physical pleasures, material wealth, worldly success, achievements, and entertainment. As I sat in prayer, sadness filled my heart as this memory reminded me how destructive these worldviews are physically and spiritually.
My Next Emotion Was Gratitude.
With this flashback, I was reminded how back in college, I was a very lukewarm Catholic. I would usually go to Mass but only out of a sense of obligation, primarily to my parents but they had also instilled within me the need to be obedient to God, including the requirement to go to Mass. I believed in Jesus and tried to always be morally upright, holding the notion: This was good enough. I prayed but only when I needed something. I rarely went toConfession with my reasoning being: I never do anything serious like murder or adultery so I do not need to go very often. I never studied the faith or read the Bible with the excuse: I am just too busy with my college studies. Looking back is hard because it is like gazing across a spiritual desert. It is only by the grace of my baptism nothing pulled me away from Christ and the faith, and, more than that, by a tremendous flood of graces, I experienced a deep conversion eight years ago.
Reminiscing allowed me to once again express gratitude to God for never giving up on me, for continuing to call out to me and for always loving me. By His grace, God now is the center of my life. I am in love with Christ and recognize His Church as a great treasure He has given us. My spiritual life is radically different thanks be to God.
My Third Emotion Was Determination.
Recalling my college days almost always arouses some degree of regret. I was so content and selfish, caught up in myself and in the world. My parents had given me strong moral values I always tried to uphold, but, in many ways, it was mere formalism; I was to uphold the moral laws because God said so yet I did not understand the reasons behind the rules, an attitude which ultimately led to much rationalization. I can remember so many examples when I was anything but Christ-like. And today my passion is evangelization and catechesis so being reminded of the many missed opportunities because I was an inconsequent Christian is painful. There are so many ‘if only’ moments in the past, and in prayer on Holy Thursday I had another regret; if only I had given a good Catholic response to my friend for his nihilistic comment.
To counter this tendency to have negative reactions to the past, though, I always make a point to learn from these events and, in this instance, I used this occasion to bolster my sense of determination. I want to always strive to live in imitation of Christ in everything I do. I want to understand all God has revealed more and more deeply. I never want to let those moments when God gives me an opportunity to share the faith pass me by again. No more regrets. I am determined. Live every day as if it is the last with the reward of heaven ever before my eyes and do what I can to help God bring as many others with me as possible (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
More Than Just a Fleck
My last emotion was the most intense and it has remained with me throughout this Easter As I meditated, I knew exactly how I would respond to my friend today if we had this same conversation: “Yes, I am merely one person among billions on earth and, yes, from space I am a teeny-tiny fleck. But this speck of matter, seemingly insignificant, in reality, is so important God, our Creator, sent His only Son Jesus to humble Himself, becoming man, and freely offering Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for me! He died so that I might live forever.
As I continued contemplating this wondrous truth, one of the most beautiful passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1, came to my mind:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.
God loves me unconditionally, evident in many ways and most perfectly in the Pascal Mystery of Jesus Christ. God Incarnate was tortured, humiliated, abandoned, mocked and yet was obedient to the point of death. He suffered in the most excruciating fashion, freely laying down His life and being crucified in order to make heaven possible for me, this teeny-tiny fleck, as well as for every single human person that lives, has ever lived or will live. Christ also taught His Apostles the fullness of revelation and established His Church to protect and preserve these truths for all ages. Guided by the Holy Spirit and Christ Himself, this one Church has been handing down the uncorrupted faith to all generations in obedience to Christ, so everyone, including me, this insignificant fleck in the grand universe, can know Truth itself and be saved. Now these truths rightfully leave me speechless.